18 thoughts on “Europe 2019

  1. In Great Britain, the leave parties (Brexit and UKIP) got 41% of the seats on 35% of the vote. The remain parties (Lib Dems, Greens, SNP, Change UK and Plaid Cymru) got 39% of the seats on 40% of the vote. (The two major parties — both internally divided on Brexit — got the rest.) There was speculation before election day that vote splitting would hurt remain voters because the lists are regional rather than nationwide, combined with the fact that all the remain parties are strong in some areas and the fact that the Brexit party has essentially wiped out UKIP. As it turns out, the remainers collectively got seats pretty close to proportional to their votes. The leavers got too many seats relative to their votes — but at the expense of Labor and the Tories rather than at the expense of remainers. I guess that sort of vindicates the speculation, but not in the way I expected.

  2. In my previous comment, I excluded Norther Ireland and made an arithmetic mistake in the process. In Great Britain the six remain parties got 39% of the seats on 41% of the vote rather than 40%.

    Northern Ireland elected one member of Sein Fein (remain), one member Democratic Unionist (leave) and one member of the Alliance party, whose position on Brexit I don’t know.

    • The elections for the European Parliament using proportional representation show very clearly why winner-take-all elections are not fit for purpose.

      In the UK, some media are saying Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party “won.” In fact they won only 29 of the 73 seats, while the “Remain” parties won 29 (16 Liberal, 7 Green, 3 Scots Nats, 1 Welsh Nats, 1 Alliance, 1 Sinn Fein), Labour (split) won 10, and the Conservatives (who knows) won 4. And the DUP (pro-brexit) won 1. Heaven knows what that would have looked like under FPTP, maybe a Brexit false majority. (Alliance are remainers.)

      In France, some media are saying Marine Le Pen “won” because she got 1 more seat than Macron. In fact Le Pen’s party won only 22 of the 74 seats, down from the 24 they won last time. The left won 23 (12 Greens, France Unbowed 6, socialist alliance 5), the centre-left (Macron) 21, and the centre-right 8. With six parties, heaven knows what FPTP would have done.

    • The Alliance party (ALDE) in Northern Ireland is far more pro-EU than Sinn Féin (EUL-NGL) ever has been! That seat is a clear gain from the UUP (who sit in the euroskeptic ECR bloc, and whose vote tanked).

  3. Germany: CDU/CSU (EPP) down, Greens up, SPD (PA/S&D) way down, AfD (far right) up but not by as much as expected, FDP (ALDE) recovers slightly from a very low base in 2014, far left down. Various other parties win 1 or 2 seats each. Essentially in line with continental trends. In 2024 there will be a threshold once again, so those micro-parties better not get too comfy! The SPD also failed to come first in Bremen in the simultaneous city-state election.

    Italy: Far right up (largely because the Lega are no longer regionalist and put up lists across the country this time), social democrats down, uncategorisable other populists (Five-Star Movement) also down. Unashamedly pro-EU Emma Bonino performs poorly, and the Greens actually lose a seat as well. There were two lower house by-elections held concurrently, as well as some regional and municipal polls.

    Spain: PSOE (S&D) up, PP (EPP) down, “Liberals” (actually neither centrist nor particularly liberal) up, far left down, regionalists & separatists up. Animal rights activists again fail to win a seat. Five more seats will be added if and when Brexit ‘happens’. There were municipal elections across the country as well as regional elections in 12 of the 17 ‘autonomous communities’, plus provincial elections in the Basque Country and insular elections.

    Netherlands: The PvdA (home of Socialist candidate Frans Timmermans) surprisingly tops the poll, one far right party replaces another, whilst the two Liberal parties also cancel each other out. Greens steady, far left sharply down. Diverse shades of traditional conservatism hold steady.

    Sweden: The local Green party has had lots of internal problems the past few years. Despite the fact that a Swede has lately become an icon of global ecologist activism, it only helped her nation’s Greens to retain half their seats this time. That’s a recovery from polls before the climate strike that showed the party could lose representation altogether. Elsewhere the principal socialist party gained one from its stable-mates the Feminist movement. The far-right delegation and centre-right caucus from Sweden will also be slightly bigger in Brussels and Strasbourg in the coming term.

    Belgium: This was held on the same day as general and regional elections, although as voting is compulsory in Belgium anywat, that makes little difference to turnout. The mainstream centre right and the Greens both consolidated their shares of the vote, but the major liberal and socialist parties fell back. The less palatable of the two far-right Flemish separatist parties almost overtook the more convivial one. A cross-community far-left group won a seat for the first time.

    Austria: Chancellor Sebastian Kurz saw his party gain two seats a few hours before he was ousted in a no confidence motion by the country’s federal parliament. Social democrats and liberals stood still. The scandal-hit far right and embattled Greens each lost a seat. The latter will get their third seat back if Brexit takes place. A recently-ousted minister got in for the former on preference votes despite being placed last on his party list. [Curse open lists!]

    Ireland: Counting appears to be still ongoing on the emerald isle, but the pattern that’s emerged is that governing conservatives FG held steady (Deputy Speaker of the EP Mairead McGuinness was comfortably returned), opposition “liberals” FF – in reality also conservative – fell back in addition to SF and Labour. Greens and independent candidates seem to be the main beneficiaries. The country would receive 2 further seats in the event of Brexit. The nation voted in favour of less restrictive divorce laws in a constitutional referendum organised alongside the European elections, as well as in local elections and in 3 cities, plebiscites were held on whether to establish directly elected executive mayoralties (two narrowly failed).

    Malta: Labour gains one from the mainstream centre right (confusingly called the Nationalist party). STV would be expected to produce a 3:3 split in most circumstances, but preferences broke in such a way to make it 4:2 to Labour on this occasion.

    Luxembourg: The CSV of retiring Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker loses a seat to current Prime Minister Xavier Bettel’s liberal Democratic Party, who’d only finished in third place 5 years earlier. Those parties both have two seats each now. The Greens and Socialists both retain one seat apiece.

  4. Interesting point about thresholds: previous French elections to the European Parliament used seven regions for the 71 MEPs of mainland France. With an average of 10 each, the effective threshold was adequate. But this year they changed to national proportionality, and decided to use the same 5% threshold as Germany, although some countries use a lower threshold. The European Council had recommended that countries with greater than 35 MEPs should introduce a threshold between 2–5%. One step closer to a European consensus on electoral systems. Now, if only France and England would adopt PR for national elections, that would make it unanimous.

  5. For all those following Northern Ireland politics, the seat for Alliance is very remarkable.

    Other interesting event for STV-lovers and on the same island: some countries will have ‘eventual’ MEPs who will sit if/when UK leaves EU. In Ireland this means the last declared elected in two of the three districts will be kept ‘in reserve’ and they are qubbling now if they have to do an extra count to allocate the votes of the last excluded candidate to determine which of the last two elected will have to wait until Brexit to sit as MEP.
    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/european-elections-dublin-complete-as-clare-daly-and-barry-andrews-elected-1.3906334

    • Interesting parallel to Australian Senators – the consistent practice has been “first-past-the-quota” for allocating long and short terms, whether (a) officially decided by the Senate itself after a double dissolution (despite Parliament by statute directing the electoral commission to run a “six out of 12” STV recount, in an unsuccessful attempt to nudge the Senate), (b) determined by statute for one-off expansions in the size of the Senate, eg 1984 when seven were elected, six for 1985-1991 terms and the last-past-the-quota for a 1985-88 term (both were cut short anyway by the 1987 double dissolution) and (c) previously prescribed by statute when Senate long-term vacancies went to a by-election at the next half-Senate election.

  6. Is there any speculation on how the numbers in Britain would have worked in a general election? Would anyone have formed a government?

    • There have been lots, but those based on people voting the same way can safely be disregarded. Even then, extrapolations come up with divergent figures because European elections are counted by local authority, whose borders do not match up with those of parliamentary constituencies.

      Turnout will be a lot higher at the next general election, and people will vote differently. Calculations that take this into account show that putting together a majority administration would be difficult, but that it’d mainly be due to a rise in the SNP and Lib Dem vote, and the Brexit Party would only finish first in 2-15 districts.

      • Membership in Europe has given Britons a brief shining moment (1979-2019) of discovering the joys of what Americans call “mid-terms” and Australians call “half-Senate elections”. Kick the national executive in the behind without actually electing the opposition party. Closed-list PR in historic regions comes even closer to replicating the Australian experience.

      • The Alliance surge in Northern Ireland, and the continuing strength of the Remain vote there, may make the DUP a less viable confidence and supply partner after a general election.

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